Are You and What Do Want?
Maintenance of Sledge Dogs: Part I
How We Met
Qiniliq and Sunny
Editor: Sue Hamilton
Webmaster: Mark Hamilton
The Fan Hitch Website
and Publications of the Inuit Sled
Dog– the quarterly Journal (retired in 2018)
and PostScript – are
dedicated to the aboriginal landrace
traditional Inuit Sled Dog as well as related
Inuit culture and traditions.
published intermittently as material
becomes available. Online access is free at: http://thefanhitch.org
PostScript welcomes your
letters, stories, comments and The editorial
staff reserves the right to edit submissions
used for publication.
Contents of The Fan
Hitch Website and its
protected by international copyright laws. No
photo, drawing or text may be reproduced in
any form without written consent. Webmasters
please note: written consent is necessary
before linking this site to yours! Please
forward requests to Sue Hamilton, 55 Town Line
Rd., Harwinton, Connecticut 06791, USA
|Our thanks to Beau
Editor, for granting permission to reprint the
(in two parts) which was first published in The
Polar Record, Vol.
8, No. 56.
The Breeding and Maintenance of
BY R. J. F. TAYLOR
One of the logical reasons for exploration is to collect
of information in a specified time; therefore planning
should be based
on an appreciation of the pregnable gaps in as many fields
of science as
possible. Present Antarctic exploration is neglecting the
and in particular those of an experimental nature. Figures
for the contingents from the British Commonwealth, France
and Norway at
present in Antarctica include twenty-three physicists,
of different varieties and only two biologists. This
neglect probably arises
from a too rigid conception that field biology is
concerned with classification
and with natural history. Antarctica, however, offers
and even certain advantages, for much biological work, and
its simplicity helps ecological thought and
The author was one of twelve men of the Falkland Islands
Survey (F.I.D.S.) stationed at Hope Bay in 1954 and 1955
as a "dog physiologist"2.
This paper emphasizes that sledge dogs offer unusual
for biological investigation in a variety of fields.
The origin of F.I.D.S. dogs
There have been three introductions of Huskies into the
Dependencies. Two shipments from Labrador arrived at the
beginning of I9454
and 19465. In 1945 about forty dogs came
from the coast
south of Hopedale and in 1946 another forty from north of
These animals were not the best in the area, but
rather the small
and unwanted beasts.
In 1954, twenty-one dogs were shipped south; eleven of
these had been
selected as the best of the British North Greenland
pack; four more were their progeny; three dogs came from
Territories of Canada and three from Britain. The last
trio were out of
a Husky of Labrador parentage and the sire of one pup,
although born in
Labrador, had won fame in Graham Land as leader to V. E.
The canine population of the Falkland Islands
Dependencies is divided
between the stations and has fluctuated in number between
forty and 200.
Dogs are frequently moved from station to station and must
as one and not separate breeding units. The population was
9 years, from the beginning of 1946 to the end of 1954,
and during that
time certain changes took place.
The dogs at Hope Bay in 1955
The material for this article comes from the dogs at Hope
Bay in 1954
and 1955, and particularly in the latter year. There were
then an average
of seventy-five dogs, with a maximum of ninety-seven.
During the year sixteen
pups were reared, and another fifteen put down. Fourteen
adult dogs were
killed, thirteen of which were shot as they were unfit for
of these were 9 years old and too stiff and slow, six were
of bad physique,
small, stout and probably rachitic, one was blind, one had
lamed in her youth, and one badly mauled in a fight and
was dying. The
fourteenth death was in a storm when a meteorological
The dogs can be classified by age and by origin. On 1
the ages of the seventy-two dogs were:
|Age in years
The average age was 2 years 9 months.
The origins and weights of the adult dogs were:
44 dogs of F.I.D.S. stock, Labrador origin
Average weight of males 96 lb.
12 dogs from the British North Greenland Expedition
Average weight of males 80 lb.
2 dogs from Canada
Weight of male 85lb.
1 dog of F.I.D.S. ancestry, but born in Britain
Weight of male 101 lb.
The females were from 15 to 20 lb. lighter.
(The discrepancy in numbers is because 13 pups of mixed
not included, and 3 Greenland dogs, 1 Canadian and 2
from Britain were
either dead or at other stations.)
Records of the F.I.D.S. dogs are kept on "Dog-cards". Each
has a picture of the dog and the following information:
number, name, sex,
date of birth, other dogs in the litter, sire, dam,
medical history, notes
on character, details of journeys and mileage, progeny,
and movements from
station to station. With the exception of "character" all
is factual and therefore liable to little personal bias.
Changes in the F.I.D.S. dogs
Some three successive generations of dogs have been bred
in the Antarctic
and certain physical changes have taken place. These can
be assessed from
the written records and by comparing the "native" stock at
Hope Bay with
the Greenland and Canadian introductions.
The weight of northern Huskies is usually recorded
as about 80
lb.7,8, and this was the average
weight of the Greenland
introductions. The thirty-nine adult dogs at Base E on 17
averaged only 74 lb. with 87 lb. as the maximum.9
now bred in the Falkland Islands Dependencies
average at least 95
lb. and the top weight recorded by the author was 132 lb.
The dogs from Greenland were as high at the shoulder as
stock, both averaging 23 in., but the introductions had
less bone and were
thinner; average shoulder widths were 9 in. compared with
11 in. The Greenland
dogs were also shorter, averaging 53 in. from nose to
tail; compared with
60 in. The obvious physical changes during 9 years of
closed breeding were
therefore increase in weight, length, girth and thickness
of bone, but
with no great change in height. There was also a gain in
strength but a
loss of speed, and the process can be regarded as similar
to breeding cart-horses
from a racing stable.
These changes were probably due to better pup care and
other possible reasons are regular feeding, controlled
selection of larger
sires, and the fact that the dogs may carry more fat as
the Antarctic summers
are colder than those in the north. It is relevant that
the dogs of Greenland
origin now in Spitsbergen are reported to be as heavy as
those at Hope
Care at base station
At Hope Bay all dogs were kept spanned with the exception
pups, breeding bitches and dogs under veterinary care.
Apart from possible
psychological effects, the only notable trouble with the
span system was
chafing of the necks by the collars. The spans were
of wire rope
with individual chains for each dog.11 These
6-ft. long chains
were spaced so that no dog could reach his neighbours.
Rations were approximately
7 lb. of seal on alternate days, most of which was meat
and blubber; heads,
livers and kidneys were fed and sometimes hearts and
lungs. About 230 seals,
most of which were Crabeater Seals (Lobodon
used in 1955.
Some authorities have condemned the feeding of offal on
account of parasites.
In the seals at Hope Bay the most obvious parasites were
in the stomachs of Weddell Seals (Leptonychotes
the actual transference of seal parasites to dogs has not
Most parasites are highly specialized and only infect
neighbours. In the Antarctic there are normally no
and the suggestion that the parasites from the southern
seals infect the
introduced population of dogs is of remarkable interest,
and requires investigation.
The health of the dogs at base was in general excellent.
that were treated included:
Sledging techniques used by F.I.D.S. have been well
described by Adie11
and by Bingham.12 Today, however, whips are
rarely carried and
drivers depend on the effect of verbal commands on the
leading dogs. There
are two aspects of leading: the dogs must go forward
steadily and in a
straight line, and secondly they must know, and respond
to, the commands
to change direction. The actual words used on F.I.D.S.
have been standardized.11
To turn left is lrr-r-re, to turn right Auk.
gives the Eskimo words as Ille for right and Yuk
i.e. there has been a transposition of these words when
they were anglicized.
The aim in 1955 was to have teams of nearly equal
not to concentrate on certain crack teams. Thus no team,
except the author's,
was associated with one person but could be allocated to
anybody for a
The dogs were run in "centre-trace", with a leader
followed by four
pairs, and each team of nine included one or two
1954 three teams were run all year and a fourth formed in
the spring. During
the summer of 1954-55, two of the four teams were sent to
and the Canadian and Greenland dogs landed at Hope Bay.
The dogs from Greenland
had been trained, but we failed to make them pull together
Thus in March 1955, when only two teams were left at Hope
Bay, the dogs
were reorganized to form four teams of roughly equal
strength. Two old
dogs were withdrawn from the original teams and pups
put in their
places; the Greenland dogs were drafted into three of the
four teams. In
August a fifth team emerged after another regrouping, and
the process was
repeated in December. Thus by removing trained dogs to
form the nuclei
for new teams, and replacing them with pups, the number of
teams was increased
from two to six. We found this easier and more
satisfactory than trying
to force nine pups to run together.
The teams were strong but some leaders were poor and
This was a result of the many young dogs, and of the
increase in number
of teams. Routine was so complex that no training runs
were possible, and
in fact all the training was done while on journeys. One
dog had been in
harness only half an hour before starting on a 360 mile
Sledging took place throughout the year, although
distances were restricted
in summer and autumn by lack of sea ice. During
these seasons the
dogs were used to haul stores and seals from the beach to
the hut. The
longest journey in 1955 was 890 miles; there were three
others over 200
miles and four more of over 100. The maximum mileage
credited to a dog
in the year was 1390. Most journeys averaged 10 miles a
day, but in 1954
one journey of 110 miles averaged only 6, while another of
825 miles averaged
16 miles a day.
Sledges were 12 ft. "Nansen type" with "Tufnol" runners.
A loaded sledge
was assumed to weigh 1100 lb., but on two occasions the
load itself was
well over 1300 lb. A few experiments were done with
runners of Polytetrafluorethylene.13
No difference was found between the coefficient of sliding
runners covered with this plastic and of new ones of
"Tufnol " at 0°
C. After much use, say 3000 miles, the drag of "Tufnol"
by approximately 30 per cent.
Life-history and training
There were four stages in the life of the dogs at Hope
infancy. Birth was in a large indoor kennel attached
to the living
hut. The dam was kept with her pups for 6 weeks and the
pups first went
outside at between 4 weeks old and 3 months. They then
roamed free until
spanned. During the second stage, from 6 to 10 months, the
pups were tethered
on the spans, fed seal every other day, and never worked.
The third stage,
working life, usually lasted 7 years (but Yap, an
exceptional dog, was
sledging until he was 10). This period can be divided into
time at base
and time on journeys. At base the dogs were fed every
other day and worked
perhaps once in 10 days in winter, more frequently in the
journeys the dogs were fed daily and worked perhaps 8 days
in 10. A good
dog might spend nearly as much time travelling as at base,
and cover 8000
miles during his working life. Finally, when 9 years old
most dogs were
retired and shot. There are records of sledge dogs living
to 15 in Britain.
Thus after the first 6 months the dogs were tethered for
the rest of
their lives. They were dependent on man for all food and
the human control even extended to their sexual activity.
The author believes
such a relationship to be bad, and that the dogs suffered
while on the spans which may have weakened their
Hediger14 suggests the same for animals in
In contrast with previous practice, we did little
training of pups.
They were put in harness at the back of a team and left
there alone; often
two pups of the same litter started sledging together and
we tried to maintain
such pairs. Gradually they learnt to pull and
the words of command. It seemed that the major part of
their training came
from watching and imitating older dogs.
Some dogs were run at 7 1/2 months; two pups of 9 months
went well on
a spring journey of 390 miles and two other pups of 15
months did the 890
miles journey. It is thought, however, that these
pups were too young
and that dogs under 12 months old should be limited
to journeys shorter
than 200 miles, and while under 2 years to journeys
shorter than 500 miles.
It is the opinion of the author that F.I.D.S. dogs are in
their prime when
5 years old.
…to be concluded.
1 The Trans-Antarctic Expedition, 1955-58, and
Geophysical Year, 1957-58. Polar Record, Vol. 8,
No. 55, 1957, p.
2 R. J. F. TAYLOR. The physiology of sledge
Record, Vol. 8, No. 55, 1957, p. 317-21.
3 S. P. YOUNG, and E. A. GOLDMAN. The
wolves of North
America. Washington, 1944.
4 J. M. WORDIE. The Falkland Islands
1943-46. Polar Record, Vol. 4, No. 32, 1947, p.
5 E. W. BINGHAM. The Falkland Islands
1946-47. Polar Record,Vol. 5, No. 3, 1947, p.
6 V. E. FUCHS. Exploration in British
Journal, Vol. 117, No. 4, 1951, p. 399-421.
7 A. CROFT. West Greenland sledge dogs. Polar
Vol. 2, No. 13, 1937, p. 68-81.
8 C. L. B. HUBBARD. Working dogs of the
1947. p. 175.
9 R. J. ADIE. The 1949-51 dog report from Base
Island) of the Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey.
10 A. REECE. Sledge dogs of the
Antarctic Expedition,1949-52, Polar Record, Vol.
7, No. 47, 1954,
11 R. J. ADIE. Sledge dogs of the Falkland
Survey, 1947-50. Polar Record, Vol. 6, No. 45,
1953, p. 631-41-.
12 E. W. BINGHAM. Sledging and sledge dogs. Polar
Vol. 3, No. 21, 1941, p. 367--85.
13 F. P. BOWDEN. Friction on snow and ice. Proceedings
the Royal Society A, Vol. 217, 1953, p.
14 H. HEDIGER. Wild animals in captivity.
1950, p. 158.
15 M. BURNS. The genetics of the dog.
Agricultural Bureau, Slough, 1952, p. 12.
16 R. J. F. TAYLOR, A. N. WORDEN, and C. E.
The sledging rations of sledge dogs, British Journal
(in the Press).
17 R. J. F. TAYLOR. The work output of sledge
of Physiology (in the Press).
18 C. SWITHINBANK. Mechanical transport of the
Antarctic Expedition, 1949-52, Polar Record, Vol.
6, No. 46, 1953,
19 The Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey,
Record, Vol. 8, No. 54, 1956, p. 260-64.